Sunday, December 26, 2010

What We Want for the New Year

“We take all the action we can meet
And we cover all the northeast state
When the strip shuts down we run ‘em in the street
From the fire roads to the interstate
Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece,
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin’ in the street.”

Racing In The Street - Bruce Springsteen

Sunday, December 19, 2010

So Simple, So Effective

You may remember Terry Stoddard from a blog a year or so ago about the difference between being disappointed and being discouraged. Terry coaches the Pasadena Swim Association US Swimming club team. We are in Long Beach this weekend so we had a chance to chat with him while competing at the Speedo Sectional Championships.

We were comparing notes about how we began our training block back in late August which is culminating for many swimmers right now. We found his comments and approach refreshingly straightforward, simple and - if done correctly - very effective.

He said he began the season with a 5 week block that focused for one week on each of the following 5 topics. His contention is that if his swimmers could master these 5 things they would improve dramatically.

They are as follows:
1 - head position
2 - body position
3 - kicking
4 - pull pattern
5 - breathing pattern

You may not agree with his 5 or the order of importance but we think if you will pick a manageable number of focal points and drill those until they are second nature you will be well served. We see far too many swimmers striving valiantly with easily correctable bio-mechanical flaws. None of us are "perfect" in the sense that our way is "best". The object is not to be "right". The task as coaches is to impart what we know to our swimmers so they can use it to be more effective and faster. Our goal is to make certain that what we are imparting to them is correct...and then to do it in such a way as to make a difference in their performance.

Have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season. Keep coming to the pool and keep smiling...and keep your head down!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What is "Pain" Anyway?

There is a distinct difference between the pain of an injury and the discomfort (pain) that comes from exerting yourself while exercising. In the athletic world these two are often lumped together - unfortunately. We hear phrases such as "play through the pain" and "you can heal in the off season" and it makes us cringe.

When you feel your body sending you a signal that you are injuring yourself you need to listen or you might not play again for quite a while.

Today we are interested in an athlete's reaction to the other kind of "pain", the one that comes from exercising, often strenuously, in an effort to improve her/his game.

You build your body's ability to do work by - well, working. Some folks say "you have to work hard" to get anywhere. We don't like the word "hard" since it often has negative connotations. We encourage you to look for a more accurate way to express what you are doing - perhaps "challenging" or "rigorously" would do the trick. The idea here is to get away from the negative when it comes to working out strenuously so as to improve your body's ability to deliver a higher level of output.

When you push yourself you either work aerobically or anaerobically, or both. When you do so vigorously, pushing to previous limits, or beyond, your body sends signals to your brain which in turn sends signals back to your body to "give me a break". This is the "pain" of exercise. If you are either an athlete getting better or an active person working to stay fit this "pain" is indeed a good thing to experience. It is the best verification you can get that you are making a difference right now! We encourage you to embrace it!

How do you do that? Well, if you change your "comfort zone" as regards "pain" tolerance you will end of welcoming this discomfort rather than dreading and or avoiding it. Superior athletes welcome the distress that comes from training. The "regular" person (what a misnomer, none of us is regular!) who simply enjoys working out likes the discomfort now and then as well. Both know this signal is a sign of good things happening...and good things won't happen without it!
So, figure out how to search for, embrace and relish the "pain" of exercise. It is a key ingredient to your athletic improvement and a long and healthy life as well (ultimately way more important!).

Learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Really good things happen when you do this.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Life’s Wonderful Surprises

This one’s for all you coaches and parents out there…an early Christmas present of sorts. Those darned kids, what are you going to do with them.

In the swimming world in the United States, December marks the “unofficial” end of the short course season. We say “unofficial” because while US Swimming wants us to focus on long course training and racing from January through August the reality tells a different story. Many regions in the country have high school seasons that are winter or spring. College swimming is a winter sport with their championships in March so there is a ton of short course swimming in that arena still to come. But, most teams look for a meet or two in December to “peak” for, something to validate all the training that has gone on since late August/early September.

And that is what we live for; the racing. Training is fun and stimulating and all that malarkey but racing is where it’s at! This weekend provided us with two classic examples of why our sport is so fulfilling…a couple of nice gems if you will.

The first took place here in Northern California at the local Junior Olympic meet. Our (North Bay Aquatics) 13-14 boys had two 200 yard medley relays entered. As race time neared we were missing one backstroker. It was five minutes to start time and still no backstroker. So we made an adjustment. We took the “B” team backstroker and put him on the “A” relay. The remaining three guys from the “B” team became the cheerleading group for the “A” team. The 13 year old handled his leg well – we were around 6th in the final heat - against many bigger 14 year olds. Our breaststroker put us almost to 4th; our flyer swam lights out and gave the freestyler the lead which he never relinquished. Those guys finished 1st when ten minutes before race time a bit of chaos was developing. Talk about a turn around. And while the three who missed a chance to race were no doubt disappointed all seven were pretty darned pumped!

The second took place at a big college invitational in Texas where one of our club swimmers was racing as a member of her college swim team. (Notice as coaches how possessive we are; what are you going to do with us?) This young lady has been chasing a sub 2 minute 200 fly for two years. Not anymore. This was her text last night, “1:59.7 – 27, 30.8, 30.4, 30.9 – no death, 14 kicks under last lap.” We texted back our congratulations and her final comment was the “a ha” moment every coach lives for, “Thanks, I’m happy but I know there’s a lot more I can do. It’s a good feeling!” Priceless in our estimation.

So, for all you parents and coaches out there, keep doing what you are doing for those youngsters in your sphere of influence. You will be rewarded – that much in life is certain!